Last year, Dora Lou, one of the featured artists, tried a new approach with children from Macau Down Syndrome Association. She happened to have a new job in special care at Best Buddies Macau, where she pairs with buddies with special needs and helps them expand social interaction and better integrate into society. Bonnie Leung, our summer course tutor, also taught kids with special needs when she lived in Canada. So we decided to jointly exhibit art works by ‘special kids’ and other children without identifying which is which, just putting down each kid’s name and age and the title “Jolly Joint Exhibition” was finally chosen after a lot of pondering. Children are the main artists in the workshops and exhibition, in which they paint and design the promotional text and images. When Bonnie was teaching in Canada some kids painted a self-portrait of their own hands, and that made me think that kids have the leading roles here. That’s why we’ve asked all the other kids to paint self-portraits, meaning everybody is exhibiting their works happily together.
Everybody is special in his/her own way and Art is the medium to discover your own uniqueness. We live in a society that easily corrupts and suppresses purity and originality, but we strive to rediscover them through art. However ‘special kids’ have special preferences and abilities to maintain their own self because they just can’t adapt to every social rule. While teaching painting, we coached them to draw something they usually don’t and then they start discovering more through their special abilities. As they don’t know how to fully interact with different things in art and life, these kids tend to live in their own world and draw whatever they want, thus showing more originality in their works. But one can better integrate into the society by knowing the importance of learning and internalizing it. Art is a magical seed that lies dormant in everyone and therefore we can always widen our horizons through it and we can help the special kids to better interact with the outside world, learn and understanding new things by introducing them to art. Meanwhile, through this exhibition we also tried to bring people together, allowing common people to better understand special groups in a non-segregated environment, thus realizing how slight differences can be. However, within the special group everyone is different expressing themselves rather candidly and better integration only comes with more interaction.
Bonnie used both group and one-on-one classes with a focus on special kids, providing them with one-on-one interaction as well as cognition through group activity. Meanwhile the tutor will be able to greatly understand each individual’s personality and weak points. Bonnie first provided paper to tentatively guide and teach the kids to paint. Later she framed and exhibited the children’s works to show everybody’s uniqueness. And then she guided the kids to discover their own style and draw on these white books without cover, in which they painted out their candid monologue. The paintings by kids are not comprehensive but details can be revealing. Bonnie created a video of their works by looking at details that were much enlarged and through this perspective we see more delicate colours and lines, a completely different feel. Besides paintings on paper, the children also experiment the free creation of wall painting and 3D installations.
This year we hope to try something new by featuring mostly kids’ work, in addition to the cooperating creation by teenagers and adults guided by Dora. We have the “Paint Freely” workshop guided by Veronique Wong, in which kids will paint the most basic yet infinite dots on normal papers, rice paper and scotch tape of various sizes. In the opening ceremony, audiences also interact with the kids to paste many different dots in the exhibition space. Then we have the “All that materials” painting workshop guided by Yolanda Kog, who works with children aged 3-6 years old and let them do rubbing freely using hands, feet and daily objects. Then she sews these painted fabrics into some bigger cloths to make tents, cushions, wall paintings and carpets, creating a feeling of forest camping. As a common children’s game, everybody may have built once their private tent.
Former exhibitor Summer Ieong Kun Ieng becomes a tutor for the first time and is hosting three courses. “Opening a magic world” is a workshop where kids will create and compile their own books using pop-up books, collages and painting. “My little kingdom” will utilize discarded material to create various interesting objects. Both workshops will be set in the same space, building a comfortable, fantastic and fun environment for children to relax, read and play. Last but not least is a 2-hour workshop in cooperation with Kindergarten D. José da Costa Nunes – Parent Club, in which 12 and 29 kids aged 2-7 will explore the world of colour together. They spray paints on the wall, sprinkle salt and hide wax in the paints. In the end the tutor compiles the children’s direct and bold creations into books for audiences to closely see and appreciate the colour variations page by page.
We invited “Ji-Ja Art Workshop” to join us in this exhibition. Tutor Vanessa Leong studied graphic design in college and currently works freelance as a children art educator. She gathers kids from different age groups in one place, using the city itself and daily life as their theme and creating a magical world of imagination with paintings of trees, cars or even scotch tape. We also have our regular workshop “Paint your story” guided by Lam Ut Ngo, in which she uses various methods to prompt kids to paint by telling them stories. Besides, there’s an experimental workshop with Macau Special Olympics for children and teenagers.
We try to present more possibilities by displaying kid’s creation in diverse ways. We’ll continue to explore this concept in next year’s exhibition. Let’s improve together, inviting participants to join us again next year.
Cora Si Wun Cheng